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A View from the Drops; A Crazy Week in the Life of a Cycling Enthusiast…

This past week was a bit of a downer – and not only as weather goes. It was supposed to rain all week but I only really had to ride once on the trainer to avoid it, so we really lucked out there. There was a second trainer ride of the week, on Thursday, but that was for simplicity’s sake – and the fact it was cold outside and I just didn’t want to throw on all of the crap that would have been needed to stay warm.

Tuesday night we rode in short sleeves and shorts. Wednesday, had it not been raining, would have been knee warmers, wool socks and arm warmers. Thursday, had I ridden outside rather than choosing convenience and warmth, leg warmers, wool socks, arm warmers and a vest. Friday morning’s ride started out at just 38° (3 C) – so doing the math, that’s a drop of 44° or 24 C. For Saturday, it was full-on cold patrol; leg warmers, tights, wool socks, winter gloves, wind-stopper hat… Autumn, it appears, is here to stay. The weekly outlook is for fourteen days of the same – lows in the upper 30’s, highs in the low 50’s.

And that was the highlight. Friday morning’s ride was the real mess. We started out well enough. I’ve taken my computer off of my rain bike because I had a desire to be free of it for a while. I have a friend in the A Group who manages to ride without knowing how fast he’s going and he does quite well no matter the pace. I want to be able to do that, too. Well, I’m not very good at it, yet, so I can hammer some of my friends into the ground if I’m not careful – especially if I’m coming up to a City Limits sign I want.

Friday started out all fun and games. We rolled west, into the wind – I took some long turns up front, and we maintained a jovial mood. We stopped at a park to use the portable facilities and eat a snack. Everything was great. We’d rolled past a “Road Closed” sign, so Mike went up ahead to find out if the road was really closed or if we could get around… It was closed, so we looped back and decided to head for home.

Coming into the town of Durand, one of my “must get” signs, I started to crank the speed up a little early – I like to try to hurt those I can behind me to discourage them wanting to come around to try for the sprint. Cresting the little hill just before the sprint, I heard a shift of someone’s bike behind me and hit it. I hit the line smiling, north of 30-mph, then looked back and slowed to wait for my wife, Mike and Diane to catch up. Everything was smiles and chucks on shoulders. We looped around town to avoid crossing a massive set of train tracks five or six wide that we’d all fallen on at one point or another. It adds another two miles, but anyone who knows me, knows I don’t mind the bonus miles.

I was still up front and we were approaching the county line… another sign I like to get, but don’t “have to” have it… I picked the pace up a little bit – Strava shows I went from 20-21 to 23. My wife came around, if memory serves, to pip me, and we formed back up. She took the lead, I was behind her, and Diane and Mike followed.

My wife tapped out to go to the back and asked me to take it easy because Mike was having a tough time keeping up at 23. According to Strava, I picked the perfect gear for 20-mph and I kept it there. Two miles later, Mike was off the back by a quarter-mile. When he caught up, he complained of having a tough time. He said he could keep up at 20, but more than that was hurting him. Problem was, I’d been at 20… Diane is a medical professional, so we stopped at an intersection and she checked his pulse. It was faint, but she said he seemed to be regular enough. Mike said he was fine, so we pressed on. We let Mike take the lead so he could choose the pace with the wind at our back. We went on for another few miles but Mike would “hit a wall” every once in a while and slow from 18-19 to 16-mph and that’s when he mentioned he was short of breath, that he couldn’t get a deep breath.

Diane looked at me and we dropped back a bit… and she quietly said, “You need to call 9-1-1 right now”. I pulled out my phone and did as I was told, after making sure I heard right. Fortunately, we had just happened on the Gaines Township Fire and Rescue station, so we had Mike pull into the parking lot so she could check his pulse again. We got Mike off his bike and she checked him out. His pulse was “all over the place”.

We managed to keep Mike off his bike for a few minutes but he wouldn’t sit down. After about five minutes, with an ambulance on the way, he said he was okay again and went to get back on his bike. Diane was fairly adamant that Mike choosing to ride home was a very bad idea – and I liked the idea that we were sitting in the parking lot of the fire station (!). If there’s anywhere to be when you need an ambulance, it’s at the fire station for God’s sake. Diane and my wife, who was also on the phone with Mike’s wife or daughter, tried to talk him off his bike while I stood in front of his handlebar so he couldn’t get rolling to clip in. He tried to move his front wheel to roll, and I’d side-step in front of him again. This went on for a minute when two fire & rescue folks rolled up in their pickup. A woman got out of the passenger side and immediately went to Mike and worked on getting him off the bike with my wife and Diane. The guy who was driving grabbed a medical-looking bag and headed for the door of the fire station, urging us inside where it was warm. The woman tending to Mike told him she was a nurse and that he should go inside, just to get checked out. And finally he broke. He got off his bike and headed over to the door.

From there it was a flurry of activity and Mike getting sorted. Phone calls were made and I sat down with a small cup of coffee that the firefighter had offered. An already long story shortened, Mike finally agreed to a ride home in the pickup of the fire and rescue people, but no ambulance. He wanted to go home and wash up before he went to the hospital. He called his cardiologist and let him know what was going on. I put Mike’s bike in the pickup and after the ambulance techs ran a few tests, he got in the truck and took his ride home.

My wife, Diane and I rode home without our buddy.

Mike is doing well, though he’s in the hospital till he goes through a couple of procedures on Monday. The good part is they know what they’re looking for now. Having Diane there for the episode was perfect. Because she got his pulse, they know they’re looking at an arrhythmia problem rather than a racing problem. We stopped up to see him for a bit last night. He seemed to be in a good mood, though he’s pissed at the electrical heart doc who told him he should rethink his cycling. You can guess where that went. An “F” bomb or two was dropped.

According to what Mike said, they ruled out a heart attack, which is fantastic news. Sadly, they haven’t come up with a way to remove the cranky yet. They’re still working on that… and it’s a very good chance he’ll die of natural causes before they figure that out.

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My Physician Avoidance and Sanity Stabilizing Unit for Order, Thankfulness, and Levity…

I was down to my cruising weight about two months ago. Now I’m just having fun with it. I figure, why not get light going into Thanksgiving this year. Then I can simply watch what I eat the rest of the winter and I’ll be a lot happier, and lighter, next spring (I let this last winter get me a little bit).

I’ve been losing about a pound a week for the last five weeks since I had my yearly physical and I’ve decided to keep that up.  The doctor’s assistant called a week after the appointment and said my bad cholesterol came back a little high.  She also added that my ratio was good, I just had to watch what I was eating a little more closely.

I took that to heart, of course, and changed how I ate immediately.  I didn’t completely cut the crap tasty food out, I’m simply more mindful about what it is I’m eating most of the time The way I see it, I’m way too active to be a saint all of the time.

The prescription was pretty simple. Eat smarter, more fast miles. Rinse and repeat.  The results have been uplifting, if expected.

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Keeping fit, active, healthy, and most important, out of the doctor’s office and the prescription medication trap, is a simple equation on any one of my bikes.  (Eat well + get fit) x ride hard = smile more.

So that brings me to my Physician Avoidance and Sanity Stabilizing Unit for Order, Thankfulness and Levity… or P.A.S.S.U.O.T.L.  

Or pass you on the left…

Ride hard, my friends.  It’s  cheaper than the doctor – and I’d rather cough up the funds for the McLaren* of race bikes than fund my doctor’s vacation home… if you know what I mean

*Or a Ford GT40 if we’re talking about the Trek – if you know your car and race bike history, you know putting the two together is quite accurate, historically speaking.

 

 

Recovery from Alcoholism or Addiction is a Daily Reprieve

A blog I follow posts a daily reading from recovery literature and one struck my fancy the other day…

There are a few things I’ve done that have helped me live a sober, happy, wonderful life. One sticks out above all others, though…

If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol.

~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, More About Alcoholism, pg. 33~

I take the notion of hope for immunity to another level. Not only can I never achieve immunity, I can’t even hope for decency, happiness, or anything that remotely looks like success if I decide to consume alcohol.

If I take a drink, I’m cooked. Done. Stick a fork in me.

I will give up everything that is good in my life, in a matter of months, to stay drunk. Alcohol won’t take anything from me, by the way, dears. This is a program of honesty. I will give it all away. Freely. My health will follow, shortly thereafter, because if we know anything about alcoholism and drug addiction, it’s that the disease is progressive. It doesn’t take time off, it just lurks in the shadows for an opportunity to wreak havoc.

I am evil when I drink, so every morning I wake up and thank God for my daily reprieve from alcoholism… and for helping me to remember just how bad I was before I quit. I have done this 9,360 times, and with a little grace and another daily reprieve, today will be 9,361.

I also remember that which is second-most important; I can have all of that misery back, if I miss it. All I have to do is take a drink.

The lesson for the day; don’t fuckin’ drink, even if your ass falls off. Put it in a plastic bag and take it to a meeting. Someone will be able to show you how they put theirs back on.

My Secrets: How I’ve Maintained My Motivation for Fitness over the last 16-ish Years…

I feel a little chubby lately. My wife says I look great, but I don’t feel very svelte when I see a picture of me. Such is life.

Too many pulled pork sammiches, methinks…

That said, we have to keep things in context.  I’m only three pounds over my perfect weight of 175 pounds, so it’s not all doom and gloom, either.

…And that’s twenty pounds under my heaviest weight from 2001.

I ride a brilliant amount of miles in a week. I feel cheated when I have to take a day off for rain. I took one day off last month… and I haven’t had to bother with an injury day off in more than six years. I had a bad back but running and cycling fixed that. I used to have anger issues, but riding reminds me of how good I’ve got it and how wonderful life is.

Now, here comes the meat and potatoes…

Cycling is a lot like cheating for me, when it comes to motivation. To this day, I can’t wait to get home so I can don my Lycra and go for a ride. Cycling today, takes me back to my childhood when my bike equaled freedom.  So, for whatever it’s worth, when I throw my leg over a top tube, my worries fade to the background and life becomes just about getting down the road.  What’s odd is that I’ve been able to maintain something of a balance, where normally anything that makes me feel good I usually overdo to the point I have to quit it to live a normal life.  That hasn’t been the case with cycling.

The real test was the ten years prior to cycling when I was a runner.  I never loved running but the endorphin rush was nice.  I was injured a little more frequently, running, maybe once a year I’d have to nurse something back to health (usually my feet – plantar fasciitis), but I never missed a good opportunity to run – and I remained fairly thin through it all.

So here are my secrets to maintaining my healthy(ish) lifestyle over the years:

  1.  I wanted to run a whole lot more than I wanted to get fat.
  2. love good food, so it helps to have something to burn it off.
  3. Running was rarely, if ever, a solo event.  I had a group of running friends and we kept each other honest.  Cycling was a bit different at first.  I could ride alone and I was content.  Today, though, 80-90% of my time on a bike is spent riding with friends.
  4. To me, fat is ugly.  I don’t want to be ugly more than I want to sit on the couch (see also, 1).

Now, for my last, biggest secret…  This is the one that drives me to ride in the cold, to risk getting caught out in the rain, to push just a little harder than normal people:

I know, through actual, real experience (not some over-hyped, misquoted, poorly shaped study) that a sedentary life is vastly more painful than an active life.  It’s not even close, and I see it all around me every day.  Old, fat people hobbling down the sidewalk.  Young fat people parking in the handicapped parking spots at the grocery store, family members who keep cutting what should be benign, fun activities because they hurt too much…  They think they’re just too old to go bowling or swing a golf club.  It’s not age that keeps them down, it’s inactivity.  The more they give in, the more they give up…

My biggest secret to staying motivated is that won’t be me.  When I die, I’m going out tired.

 

Cycling and Back Pain; My Experience and Why I Wish it would be Looked at Scientifically

I can’t explain why my back likes cycling so much, but the results of 47,000 miles in the saddle are in, and they’re good.

First, I have a confession to make; if you guessed that I ride the bike I do, set up as it is, for reasons connected partly to vanity, you’re not wrong.

No doubt about it, my bike is sleek and awesome. So is my other one. And my other one. Oh, and let’s not forget my mountain bike…

Variations on a theme…

Anyway, getting back to the point, I ride in an aggressive posture. There’s a lot of drop from the saddle to the handlebar on my bikes. The mountain bike is the only one where the drop is a bit closer to normal.

Where this becomes important is that I have a really bad back. I have suffered physical back pain for most of the last three decades, unless I’m riding a bike. I used to define good weeks and bad weeks by how many Aleve I had to eat (because of my being an addict, I never accepted narcotic pain meds even though they could have been justified – I’d end up eating them like candy, it’s my nature). Two or three pain relievers a day for six days of the week was a really bad week. Two a day for three or four days in a week was average. One or two days a week was a good week. Before cycling, there was no such thing as a week without an Aleve (before 1994 it was Advil or Tylenol but I didn’t want to have to go through the pill amount conversion).

Today, after seven years of cycling regularly, my back isn’t cured but it certainly is manageable. My Aleve habit has dropped from as many as 20 pills a week down to one or two – or even none most weeks. On my recent mountain climbing cycling sabbatical I didn’t take a pain reliever. Three days, 160+ miles, climbing hills I’m not used to climbing, and I didn’t need anything for pain. My last day off the bike was April 14th, it’s currently May 20th.

I don’t do sit-ups, I don’t do core exercises, I don’t stretch… I just ride my bike with a smile stretched across my face, and it’s all good.

I’m sure there are contributing factors that explain my results, but I don’t know how to explain the fact I’m not all that flexible (I’ve never been able to touch my toes) but I can ride my bike comfortably with the aggressive set-up I’ve got, and doing so actually makes my back feel better.

In the end, I’m sure the lack of belly fat has something to do with it, as does the fact that I still get a great core workout riding. I think there’s one other thing at work here. It’s more a law; A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Conversely, a body at rest tends to stay at rest…

They say to drink a lot of water, I just filter mine through ground coffee beans first… Thanks Again, California. You give New Meaning to the Phrase “Stick in the Mud”… Ya Dopes.

Trigger (heh) warning: I don’t particularly like California or Californians. I don’t like their arrogance or the fact that, somehow, they’ve come to rely on politicians who continually screw up all things good and happy, causing everyone to hate everyone else. This post will reflect that disdain for politicians, Californians and other general sticks in the mud. This post will not be my fit in my usual PG category posts. You have been trigger (heh) warned.

California is at it again, taking the best in life and exploiting it to remove all of the joy and happiness, bastardizing scientific research in the process… and all in the name of your safety. It’s kind of what California does (that gives me an idea, but we’ll get to that in a minute). In California, nobody can ever be happy, people must live on the screwed up edge of: “We must do more! We MUST remind the people of how necessary and brilliant we are!” I don’t like California because its idiocy tends to infect the rest of the US. When they threaten session, I say they can’t get there fast enough.

In fact, did you know the self-esteem movement, that which has likely led to more unmarriageable men than any other single “idea” in the history of humankind, can actually be traced back to California? Better, and not surprisingly, the science that was used to back up the need for changes to the education system was skewed and manipulated to support that lunacy.

Well, California is at it again, this time training their keen brand of idiocy and ignorance on coffee.

See, according to California’s “Council for Education and Research in Toxics (CERT).” coffee causes cancer (specifically a chemical created in the roasting process). Now, if you don’t know already, the study used to suggest that there may be a link to the chemical and cancer was conducted using the overdose method, where testers take the maximum tolerable amount of a chemical and inject it into a small animal. If the small animal gets cancer, bingo. The rub is that the small animal would have to inject something like the equivalent of 486 gallons of coffee a week into its body to cause cancer. Then you have to adjust that to human proportions… And folks, I’m not over exaggerating… I’m under exaggerating. In other words, there’s just no freaking way.

In fact, and let this sink in for just a second, The American Institute for Cancer Research lists coffee as a food that fights cancer. Allow me to channel Samuel L. Jackson for just a moment. Mother f***er, click on the mother****in’ “Research” tab. I’m not even going to copy and paste the quote, mother****er. Better, have a look at all the cancers coffee is shown to fight. Hey, here’s a mother****in’ idea, what does the World Health Organization say about coffee? Well, let’s see:

The World Health Organisation has cleared coffee of causing cancer

So, in other words, everyone else on the freaking planet has discovered that coffee is actually good for you, and in many cases decades ago, but that’s not good enough for the anti-science fun police in California. They’ve deemed it necessary to make convenience stores label coffee as a possible cause of cancer.

Here’s that idea I wrote of earlier…. How about a little truth in advertising, there California? I want the next commercial from the tourism board of California (whatever that bureaucracy is named) to include a disclaimer that while California may be one of the more beautiful places in America, its political apparatus foments hatred and division of its people by constantly attacking happiness itself and that human contact should be kept to a bare minimum lest you accidentally bump into one of those who support a life devoid of happiness and are infected with that resident’s penchant for supporting those attacks.

Motherf***in’ @$$#oles.

New Report goes beyond just saying Cycling doesn’t Pose a Threat to Men’s Health;  It says Faster is Better.

A new study, reported on by Newsweek and published in the Journal of Urology shows cycling doesn’t affect a man’s “sexual and urinary health” any more than running or swimming does (which one would assume is none at all – at least this one).

In the past, reports existed that supported the notion that cycling could cause erectile dysfunction.  While those reports were discredited as “lacking scientific rigor”, the myth persisted amongst the, well, let’s call them “the information deprived”.

In any event, this new study shreds the notion and goes one better to say that any negative attributable to cycling is vastly outweighed by the benefits.  Better still, the study split cyclists into two groups based on intensity, those who rode more than three times a week and 25 miles per ride and those who rode less… and:

Higher-intensity cyclists, somewhat counterintuitively, had better erective function compared to low-intensity cyclists

Hang on a second and let that sink in just a little bit.  I know I almost had to pick my jaw up off the floor – it’s a rare day a study bares that out, let alone the point actually makes a report about the study.  In a world where seemingly everything that comes out looks at how little one has to do, it was nice to see the hotrods get a nod and a pat on the helmet for once.

The only problem they did come up with for cyclists came in the form of genital numbness, or in less technical terms, numbnuts.  Scientists did find, and I really don’t want to know how, that spending approximately 20% of the time out of the saddle helped immensely.  I can, of course, corroborate this finding – and to tell the truth, I really don’t plan on explaining how.  Just know it’s good to jumble the jewels now and again with a quick shake out of the saddle.  What is important here is the why.  Numbnuts are caused by a saddle that restricts blood flow to the chestnuts so that’s why riding out of the saddle helps – it gets the blood flowing in the nether region again.  So, either get a harder saddle or spend some time climbing peaks out of the saddle.

Other than cranky cajones, which we know are fairly common, cyclists have every reason to rejoice.  We still have things like saddle sores and chafing to be aware of, but the big problems appear to be a worry of the past.

Now, before you ask (or comment), yes.  I was aware of every double-entendre.  They were all on purpose.  ‘Cause we all need a little laugh from time to time, especially about a topic that begs for a chuckle.

Ride hard, my friends.  Heh.